Cardinal Praises Muslims for "Eloquent" Letter

Says Good Will Can Help to Overcome Prejudices

PARIS, OCT. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue praised the recent letter sent by 138 Muslim scholars as “an eloquent example of a dialogue among spiritualities.”

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said this in an interview published today by the French Catholic daily La Croix, in which he commented on the letter sent last week. The text was addressed to Benedict XVI and the heads of Christian churches, and proposed that the two faiths cooperate in establishing peace and understanding in the world.

The 138 signatories of the letter offered an open invitation to Christians to unite with Muslims over what is most essential to their respective faiths — the commandment of love.

The appeal was welcomed by Anglican, Lutheran and evangelical leaders and the World Council of Churches.

Cardinal Tauran called the letter a “positive initiative, insofar as the text proposes cooperation based on common values: acknowledgement of one God, love of God for all mankind and the necessity to love one’s neighbor.”

“One aspect that struck me in a particular way is that, perhaps for the first time, the text signed by the Muslims presented Jesus of the Gospel with citations from the New Testament, and not from citations of the Koran,” he added.

Eloquence

The cardinal also praised the appeal as “an eloquent example of a dialogue among spiritualities.” He noted that the text was signed both by Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and “demonstrated that with good will and respectful dialogue, we can rise above prejudices.”

The president of the dicastery said, however, that theological dialogue with Muslims would be difficult: “Muslims do not accept that one can question the Quran, because it was written, they say, by dictation from God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith.”

Cardinal Tauran commented on the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions, which will take place Sunday. Benedict XVI will preside over the meeting’s opening Mass in Naples’ Piazza del Plebiscito. This year’s meeting has the theme “Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.” The international encounters were inspired by the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in October 1986.

For the cardinal, interreligious meetings such as the one in Naples “allow the ‘spirit of Assisi’ to survive.” He added that the gatherings are also reminders of the goal of peace, and that religion should be a factor in that process.

“If believers were consistent with their faith,” he said, “maybe the world would be different. Because it is not religion that makes war, but men. In the end, religions are accused because of those who use religion for terrorist activities. Religion created fear because it was perverted by terrorism.”

Limits

Cardinal Tauran didn’t comment on what Benedict XVI’s message will be for Sunday’s meeting, but did recall that in a letter to the bishop of Assisi in 2006, the Pontiff spoke of ” the limitations of these interreligious meetings.”

“I believe that this was always very clear,” he added, “and even from the beginning: each one prays a different way. This is not syncretism. The dialogue itself presupposes an otherness, a difference. Otherwise, if we were in accord, there wouldn’t be dialogue.

“Hence, each party must be concerned with its own spiritual identity. We ourselves have, as Christians, to manifest that Jesus Christ reveals God in a complete and definitive manner.”

Regarding dialogue with other religions, Cardinal Taruan said: “The discourses of the Pope are very clear. He said, in Cologne: ‘Dialogue with Islam it not an option, but a vital necessity upon which depends our future.’ Furthermore, a text like ‘Dominus Iesus’ puts the parameters to avoid religious syncretism.

“We must not put our flag in our pocket, and we should clearly show in whom we believe. Also, when we look at the teachings of the Pope, the themes of reflection with the non-Christian religions emerge: the sacred character of life; to cultivate the fundamental values, for example, the family, the place of religion in education.”

Cooperation

Regarding the organization of his dicastery, the president of the interreligious council said: “Improvements should be made in the relationships between organisms such as the Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies and Islam, the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“The situation of Christians living in Muslim-majority countries is very different depending on the physiognomy of the country: The Christian living in Indonesia is not in the same situation as the one living in Morocco and Lebanon. There are different ways of incarnating Islam, and we should have this diversity in mind in our dialogue.”

Cardinal Tauran also addressed the problem that Muslims can build mosques in Europe while many Islamic states limit or ban church building: “In a dialogue among believers, it is fundamental to say what is good for one is good for the other.”

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